Press Conference with Lady Gaga

(11 July 2011, Sydney Town Hall)

I'd like to officially welcome Lady Gaga to Sydney and to Sydney Town Hall for her concert on Wednesday. The City of Sydney prides itself on its tolerance and diversity and of course, Sydney is known as one of the gay capitals of the world.

The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of the highlights of the Sydney calendar and certainly one of the highlights of my calendar as Lord Mayor of Sydney.

Nothing matches the experience, but in the middle of the fun and glamour, one doesn't forget the hard fought struggles and how much inequality remains.

When I first entered the Parliament 23 years ago, homophobic discrimination and prejudice were the norm.

My 1993 homosexual vilification legislation when it became law, protected gay men and lesbians against threats or words that incite hatred or violence.

But other Members thought my questions about the Government's response to HIV/AIDS were "fringe".

The Government refused to debate my 1997 bill to recognise same-sex relationships, and all members voted against my 2000 amendments to allow same-sex couples to adopt - that reform finally got through last year. Gay and Lesbian families are now legally recognised in NSW but the Gay and Lesbian parents cannot marry.

I believe two people who love each other, and want to spend their lives together, should be able to get married.

And at last count, the majority of Australians agree.

The law needs to change!

And in the United States it is. This month, legislators in New York City crossed the line on same-sex marriage.

A struggle like this has many many parents.

But one woman helped turn the tide.

From playing small bars in New York - and we love and promote small bars in Sydney! - to huge arenas around the world, Lady Gaga is one of the world's biggest stars.

And I pay tribute to her for using her star power to focus the world's attention on the prejudice still directed at gay men and women.

From the hideous farce of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy to the bigoted and prejudiced arguments against gay marriage, Gaga has been a powerful force for gay and lesbian communities.

In Sydney, we have a rare honour for people whose achievements embrace the ideals and spirit of our city - the title of Honorary Citizen of Sydney.

Today I would like to extend that honour to Lady Gaga.

Tonight Lady Gaga and I are launching a new national petition organised by the group "Get Up!" calling on the Federal Government to change the law and legally recognise same sex marriages.

We have both signed the petition and hope it will attract thousands of signatures from around the country - from the Gay and Lesbian community and importantly their families and friends.

This petition will be presented to the Prime Minister.